Posted on August 25, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The San Francisco 49ers have parted ways with linebacker Ahmad Brooks. The team announced Friday that they have released the 33-year old Brooks. The move comes less than 48 hours before San Francisco’s third preseason game, which is Sunday night against the Vikings. Reports indicate that the 49ers gauged trade interest in Brooks before deciding to release him.
“We would like to thank Ahmad for his nine years of service and contributions to the 49ers,” 49ers GM John Lynch said in statement issued by the team. “In that time, he played a significant role on some formidable defensive units that helped this team achieve great success. We feel good about the depth and competition along our defensive front and believe that by making this decision now it will give Ahmad a head start on exploring his options with other teams. We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
Brooks had been with the 49ers since 2008. He spent the first two years of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team that drafted him out of Virginia. He became a starter for the 49ers in 2011. Since then, he has been one of the most consistent performers on San Francisco’s defense.
Had he remained with the 49ers this season, Brooks would have made $6.15 million against the salary cap in 2017. He was entering the final season of a six-year contract he signed with the 49ers prior to the 2012 season. Given his age, salary, and the fact that the 49ers are clearly in the midst of rebuilding under first year head coach Kyle Shanahan, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Brooks was let go.
Brooks spent most of training camp battling for a starting spot with Eli Harold, a competition Harold has apparently won. Harold, who also went to Virginia, is just 23, 10 years younger than Brooks. He also came on strong the second half of the 2016 season, and at this point, possesses far more upside than Brooks.
“They’re both built the same. If you’re looking at Eli and Ahmad, they’re very athletic, they’re both very strong, they both love the game,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday. “So, it’s a good problem. You’ve got two very good football players. That thing’s not even close to done yet. But, having another person who can add value to that position has been a bonus. So for Eli, his athleticism, his violence, his love for the game, that’s all been an exciting part for him.”
It now appears that 49ers middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman will have two new outside linebackers flanking him this season in Harold and rookie Reuben Foster. Foster is the favorite to start at weak-side linebacker with Malcolm Smith likely lost for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. It’ll give San Francisco’s defense a new look from previous seasons when their linebackers were among the best in football. However, the 49ers are high on both Harold and Foster.
As for Brooks, it’s unclear where his career goes from here. It’s been almost a decade since he was last without a job. For what it’s worth, Brooks missed only eight games in his eight seasons in San Francisco, so injuries have not been an issue for him, even in his 30s. He also accumulated 53 tackles and six sacks last season. It’d be shocking if he didn’t find a new home before the start of the season, although perhaps not in a starting role.